The Appraisal Lane announced an expansion into the Upper Midwest on Tuesday that gives the company a presence from the entire Eastern Seaboard on into Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
The Appraisal Lane is built around a mobile app designed to connect car dealers to appraisers and buyers in a community so they can receive real-time cash offers on vehicles they want to wholesale.
“We’re definitely in growth mode,” co-founder and president Andrew Iorgulescu said in a phone interview on Monday. “Growth and acquisition. We’re going to be adding members to the community now. The building phase really involved building a lot of infrastructure. We needed to be able to handle titles and funds, and handle them well.”
The company has been putting a big emphasis on its core system as well as connecting the system to CRM and accounting functions, he said. And now it’s time to grow.
In a news release, The Appraisal Lane and its leadership called its growth “methodical,” with the company taking a strategic approach to make sure it’s the right dealers and the right markets. And ensuring the logistical concerns of growth are met.
“It’s almost like when you annex or extend the county line,” co-founder and chief executive officer Jeff Risner said during Monday’s call. “We have to add operational staff to handle the acquisition of the assets, and to be familiar with any nuance in the marketplace there, so that we’re connected to the marketplace that we’re putting values on and supporting our customers.”
The company has been planning for expansion for the past four months, he said.
Iorgulescu said the company began by piloting the platform in the Southeast about two years ago. The strategy has been to grow into nearby markets; so, for example, after starting in Florida, it added Georgia and the Carolinas.
Following its initial launch into the Southeast, the company moved toward the Northeast and grew around the Interstate 95 corridor, Iorgulescu said. And now this latest move begins an East-to-West expansion.
The Appraisal Lane has been adding staff in recent months to accommodate the growth into the Upper Midwest as well as learning more about the dealers and market in this area.
“We’re really building a community,” Iorgulescu said. “The community is only as strong as its members, and the members in the community that we’re building need to be relatively close to each other. And we as the people that are administering the community need to be familiar with … what’s going on in the local market.”
That community Iorgulescu refers to consists of three groups that add up to about 1,000 people, he said: dealers submitting vehicles to the company to be appraised, the appraisal team putting prices on those cars and then the vehicle buyers.
“Being connected to a larger community during the valuation process gives our appraisers and buyers instant access to the information necessary to make a cash offer,” Risner said in a news release. “It also lets our customers know there is someone in the trenches with them, working on valuations while they are focused on the consumer.
“With 2,111 different make and model combinations in 2016 alone, it’s unrealistic to expect a manager to know the value of every vehicle they process, much less non-core brands. Our experts are there to help.”
When people use the app to submit a vehicle, they explained, there is a messaging function that connects the user in real time to The Appraisal Lane’s appraisal staff, who are dedicated to vehicle appraisal and can walk them through the process.
“Think of us as like the dealer’s 12th man,” Iorgulescu said, borrowing a football reference, appropriately enough. “We’re that person there helping them out on every trade, on every vehicle they want to wholesale. They get a cash offer from us.”
So far this year, there has been a 53-percent increase in vehicles submitted for appraisals through the app, the company said. Risner attributes the spike to the value that dealers who have fully integrated the app find in the platform.